T Nation

Polls Support Torture of Terrorists


Interesting results in this poll:



Most Americans and a majority of people in Britain, France and South Korea say torturing terrorism suspects is justified at least in rare instances, according to AP-Ipsos polling.

The United States has drawn criticism from human rights groups and many governments, especially in Europe, for its treatment of terror suspects. President Bush and other top officials have said the U.S. does not torture, but some suspects in American custody have alleged they were victims of severe mistreatment.

The polling, in the United States and eight of its closest allies, found that in Canada, Mexico and Germany people are divided on whether torture is ever justified. Most people opposed torture under any circumstances in Spain and Italy.

?I don?t think we should go out and string everybody up by their thumbs until somebody talks. But if there is definitely a good reason to get an answer, we should do whatever it takes,? said Billy Adams, a retiree from Tomball, Texas.

In America, 61 percent of those surveyed agreed torture is justified at least on rare occasions. Almost nine in 10 in South Korea and just over half in France and Britain felt that way.


I want to add that I'm not surprised by the support for two reasons.

Firstly, a lot of people are convinced by the "ticking time bomb" scenario that torture should not be completely outlawed, but should be reserved for extreme circumstances.

Secondly, I think at least part of the support comes from the fact that the definition of actual torture has been muddied by a bunch of activists who have wanted to use it to make anti-American denunciations. Using such phraseology as "tantamount to torture," and attempting to squeeze things into the definition of torture that do not fit, will leave people with the impression that actual torture is comparable to the things that are trying to be squeezed in, and thus not as bad as it is. Add in the truly assinine claims made by some activists, such as not providing Halel meals was torture, or dropping the Koran was torture, etc., and it's easy to see why the public at large might not view the word "torture" with the disgust that actual torture should engender. Words mean things, and they shouldn't be cheapened to try to make political points.


1) There is such as thing as the tyranny of the majority also -- especially during times of panic and hysteria. Anyway, there is a large difference between 'extreme circumstances' and 'whenever possible'.

2) I think playing lawyer with the meaning of the word "torture" is a dangerous game to play. Some people die or suffer serious injuries during interrogation -- whether or not it qualifies as "torture".

3) Where was the question asking people whether or not they wanted to be "tortured"?


Of course there is such a thing as tyranny of the majority. However, it would not seem to be applicable here, unless you see the majority voting to torture a minority segment of the population. Non sequiter.

Then the red herring. Who said anything about using torture "whenever possible" Whom are you quoting? No one, I suspect, but if you can show me someone credible advocating that torture should be used whenever possible I will be interested to see it.

The question was between never being allowed to use torture, or reserving it for extreme circumstances. If you would reserve it for extreme circumstances, then, by definition, you do not believe that there is no case in which torture would be acceptable.

The people attempting to play with the word torture are the ones trying to expand its meaning to cover any measure of interrogation with which they disagree. Words mean things. Just as with Orwell's famous complaint in the 40s that fascism had come to mean anything with which the speaker disagreed, "torture" is being tossed around to try to cover any interrogation technique the speaker finds distasteful. That dilutes the concept of actual torture, and that is not a good thing. To the extent people agree about torture being a horrible thing, they are agreeing to a distinct set of horrible practices. Adding lesser practices dilutes the concept, and creates disagreement from those paying close attention and confusion among those who aren't.

There wasn't one, obviously. Why don't you call the pollster and complain.

Honestly, it's a stupid standard at any rate. I wouldn't want myself to be imprisoned, but that doesn't impact whether I think prisons are necessary.



You'd have to be a fool not to imagine that "extreme circumstances" is a very huge loophole and grey area.

Please, your lapdog style support for the use of whatever means the administration would like to use is tiring.

Anyhow, yes, I'm glad technology and methodology has advanced such that incredible pain and suffering can be achieved without much physical damage -- that way people can't actually claim they were "tortured" anymore when they are made to suffer.

Phew. That's a damned good thing!

What's next on the spin cycle?



I don't know who told you that the pollster was attempting to write a comprehensive policy on when torture should be utilized, but I think you should write to him and let him know that were his questions to be instituted verbatim as asked, there would be huge loophole problems.

My, but aren't we feeling reflexively anti-Bush today? Or, rather, every day?

I was making two points. One related to the opinion of people regarding use of torture in limited circumstances. The other was pointing out that some of the support evidenced in the poll may be due to confusion over what constitutes actual torture (and thus its support may be lower than indicated by the poll).

Where did you get the administration into that? I think you should try to take a nice nap and unwind a bit.

Yes, it is good that there are techniques available for use in certain situations to allow intelligence officers and military to obtain necessary information. And it's even better that they don't cause much physical damage.

Really, how are those bad things again?

Oh yeah, I forgot -- it makes them not torture. Which, apparently, is a bad thing to you.

Remember one thing: No one is advocating broad expansion of the use of coercive interrogation techniques, but they have their place. Just like no one is arguing that the death penalty to should attach to financial fraud, but there are many who believe it has its place.


Oops, it looks like you didn't get the memo Boston...

US Rules Out Inhumane Treatment of Prisoners
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States explicitly banned its interrogators around the world from treating detainees inhumanely in a policy shift made public on Wednesday under pressure from Europe and the U.S. Congress.


But on a trip to Europe to defuse widespread anger over U.S. treatment of detainees, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice articulated a new legal interpretation of an international treaty that U.S. officials said resulted from a policy shift.

"As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT (Convention against Torture), which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -- those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," Rice told reporters in Ukraine.


Another senior U.S. official who asked not to be named because he was discussing internal decision-making said there had long been debate within the administration about how to interpret the torture convention.

The administration agreed on new language several weeks ago but Wednesday was the first time a senior official had used it in public so clearly, he said.

In October, in a move that went largely unnoticed, the Justice Department told the Senate Judiciary Committee of the new policy, which contrasted with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' position earlier in the year that the treatment rules did not apply overseas.[/i]

I love it when the administration backtracks to be closer to my position. It must put you cheerleaders in a very uncomfortable position... I mean, you either have to argue against the administration or move closer to being in agreement with me.

I can see how both of those are difficult.

Anyway, whether or not US actions change to reflect this apparent new stance is indeed another kettle of fish. It's very easy to say one thing, do another, and hide the truth from the populace... for a while.


I saw that. I also saw this:

But it had made a distinction for less extreme tactics known as "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment, saying the United States only had to prevent that from occurring on U.S. territory to meet its pledges under a U.N. convention.

Which means, of course, that the position of the administration hasn't changed at all. The U.S. has never had a torture exception.

BTW, what does that have to do with the poll?


That's such a moronic statement, yet not surprising considering the source.

That could quite possibly be the most narcissistic thing ever put in print.

How is their condoning of torture--which I referenced in your other anti-Bush post--in any way coming around to your way of thinking?

I don't believe anyone was rah-rahing over the fact they believed the administration was pro-torture.

I'm sure your next piece will be about the legitimacy of their public stance versus their privat meetings where they 'unofficially' give the green light to torture. Let's see how you react to the next 'incident.'



I think you have overlooked the word "had" which suggests that the US "had" exempted such mistreatment overseas.

While I could be mistaken, it appears that Rice has announced a reversal of this policy.



I don't even know what the hell you are trying to say. Perhaps try again?



To whatever extent it is a "reversal," I'll just note that U.S. bases are considered U.S. soil, so I'm not sure how much of a reversal is going on there...

And, I'll also reference this excellent WSJ editorial concerning non-torture coercive interrogation:


Condi's European Torture
Mock outrage over "secret" terror prisons.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

It has been quite the spectacle this week, with Condoleezza Rice touring Europe amid mock dismay over the fact that the CIA may have detained terrorists in European jails. If the Secretary of State weren't so diplomatic, she'd cancel her tour and say she won't come back until the Continent's politicians decide to grow up.

One of Europe's moral conceits is to fret constantly about the looming outbreak of fascism in America, even though it is on the Continent itself where the dictators seem to pop up every couple of decades. Then Europe dials 9-11, and Washington dutifully rides to the rescue.

The last time was just a few years ago, as U.S. firepower stopped Slobodan Milosevic, who had bedeviled Europe for years.

In return, it would be nice if once in a while Europe decided to help America with its security problem, especially since Islamic terrorism is also Europe's security problem. But instead the U.S. Secretary of State has to put up with lectures about the phony issue of "secret" prisons housing terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans.

We put "secret" in quotes because the CIA could hardly carry on operations in Europe without the knowledge of the countries involved. Rather, as Ms. Rice dryly put it, the U.S. often engages "the enemy through the cooperation of our intelligence services with their foreign counterparts."

So the so-called "rendition" programs at issue--involving the transportation, detention and questioning of terror suspects--are precisely the kind of anti-terror efforts that multilateral Europeans ought to love.

Yet as soon as the Washington Post began reporting on the "secret" detention facilities, the pretend questions began.

A shocked, shocked British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote the U.S. on behalf of the European Union demanding "clarification" to "allay parliamentary and public concerns." EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini threatened "serious consequences," including the "suspension of voting rights" against any EU member found to be involved. The anti-American press that dominates Europe has been in full cry.

What gives? Mostly opportunism and political cowardice. The two countries mentioned in the press for helping the U.S.--Poland and Romania--ought to be applauded for doing so. But the European media have spun so many wildly false stories about U.S. detention policy that anti-American demagogues see an opening and even friendly European politicians are afraid to push back.

Ms. Rice's pledge that the U.S. isn't "torturing" anyone on European soil, or anywhere else, ought to be all the reassurance Europeans need. According to the CIA sources leaking these stories, the "secret" prisons were for housing only about a dozen top al Qaeda leaders, such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

And the most aggressive interrogation technique authorized against such men is "waterboarding," which induces a feeling of suffocation. That's rough treatment, but the technique has also been used on U.S. servicemen to train them to resist interrogations, and we suspect many Europeans would accept it if they believed it might avert another Madrid.

If not, they certainly ought to explain the other realistic options. One possibility is sending terrorists to the likes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where their intelligence services can do the interrogating.

Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger once memorably explained this policy as sending suspects to countries where justice is "streamlined"--which is putting it mildly. This kind of "rendition" strikes us as far more morally problematic than taking responsibility for interrogation ourselves.

Meanwhile, the claim that aggressive interrogations of these hard cases are unnecessary and unproductive is simply naive. On Monday, ABC News reported that "Of the 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA, only one did not require waterboarding before he talked."

The exception was Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who "broke down in tears after he walked past the cell of" KSM. "Visibly shaken, he started to cry and became as cooperative as if he had been tied down to a water board," ABC's sources said.

The broad reality, of course, is that European intelligence and security services have been helping the CIA in fighting terror, both before and after 9/11. There have been arrests of terror-cell members, and even successful prosecutions. The failure has come at the level of political leadership, where elected officials refuse to acknowledge such cooperation, or to defend its moral necessity.

The danger here is less to America--which will continue to protect itself in any case--than it is to Europe. The phony outrage over American anti-terror practices will only make it harder for European governments to take the actions required to stop terror on their soil--witness French paralysis in the wake of the recent riots.

More dangerous for the longer term, the Continent's preening anti-Americanism has also been duly noted on this side of the Atlantic. Europeans should worry that their moral hauteur may well be repaid by American popular opinion the next time they call on the Yanks to put down one of their homegrown fascists.


We shall see Boston, we shall see.

If Rice is just saying that the policy is changing when it isn't, then it will be yet another mistake by the administration.

Certainly, it could be "word games", but honestly, that would be foolish in this day and age.


Here's a transcript of Rice's statements on 12/5 - I wouldn't think she would have departed in any significant manner from this prepared statement for the article above:

Rice's Comments on the War on Terror
Remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before leaving for Europe, as transcribed by the State Department
December 5, 2005 10:18 a.m.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. We have received inquiries from the European Union, the Council of Europe, and from several individual countries about media reports concerning U.S. conduct in the war on terror. I am going to respond now to those inquiries, as I depart today for Europe. And this will also essentially form the text of the letter that I will send to Secretary Straw, who wrote on behalf of the European Union as the European Union president.

The United States and many other countries are waging a war against terrorism. For our country this war often takes the form of conventional military operations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Sometimes this is a political struggle, a war of ideas. It is a struggle waged also by our law enforcement agencies. Often we engage the enemy through the cooperation of our intelligence services with their foreign counterparts.

We must track down terrorists who seek refuge in areas where governments cannot take effective action, including where the terrorists cannot in practice be reached by the ordinary processes of law. In such places terrorists have planned the killings of thousands of innocents -- in New York City or Nairobi, in Bali or London, in Madrid or Beslan, in Casablanca or Istanbul. Just two weeks ago I also visited a hotel ballroom in Amman, viewing the silent, shattered aftermath of one of those attacks.

The United States, and those countries that share the commitment to defend their citizens, will use every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists. Protecting citizens is the first and oldest duty of any government. Sometimes these efforts are misunderstood. I want to help all of you understand the hard choices involved, and some of the responsibilities that go with them.

One of the difficult issues in this new kind of conflict is what to do with captured individuals who we know or believe to be terrorists. The individuals come from many countries and are often captured far from their original homes. Among them are those who are effectively stateless, owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous. And some have information that may save lives, perhaps even thousands of lives.

The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs. We have to adapt. Other governments are now also facing this challenge.

We consider the captured members of al Qaeda and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents. We must treat them in accordance with our laws, which reflect the values of the American people. We must question them to gather potentially significant, lifesaving, intelligence. We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible.

For decades, the United States and other countries have used "renditions" to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held or brought to justice.

In some situations a terrorist suspect can be extradited according to traditional judicial procedures. But there have long been many other cases where, for some reason, the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option. In those cases the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in a rendition. Such renditions are permissible under international law and are consistent with the responsibilities of those governments to protect their citizens.

Rendition is a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism. Its use is not unique to the United States, or to the current administration. Last year, then Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet recalled that our earlier counterterrorism successes included "the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001."
? Ramzi Youssef masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and plotted to blow up airlines over the Pacific Ocean, killing a Japanese airline passenger in a test of one of his bombs. Once tracked down, a rendition brought him to the United States, where he now serves a life sentence.

? One of history's most infamous terrorists, best known as "Carlos the Jackal," had participated in murders in Europe and the Middle East. He was finally captured in Sudan in 1994. A rendition by the French government brought him to justice in France, where he is now imprisoned. Indeed, the European Commission of Human Rights rejected Carlos' claim that his rendition from Sudan was unlawful.

Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives.

In conducting such renditions, it is the policy of the United States, and I presume of any other democracies who use this procedure, to comply with its laws and comply with its treaty obligations, including those under the Convention Against Torture. Torture is a term that is defined by law. We rely on our law to govern our operations. The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances. Moreover, in accordance with the policy of this administration:
? The United States has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries.

? The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.

? The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured.

? The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

International law allows a state to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities. Detainees may only be held for an extended period if the intelligence or other evidence against them has been carefully evaluated and supports a determination that detention is lawful. The U.S. does not seek to hold anyone for a period beyond what is necessary to evaluate the intelligence or other evidence against them, prevent further acts of terrorism, or hold them for legal proceedings.

With respect to detainees, the United States Government complies with its Constitution, its laws, and its treaty obligations. Acts of physical or mental torture are expressly prohibited. The United States Government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world.

Violations of these and other detention standards have been investigated and punished. There have been cases of unlawful treatment of detainees, such as the abuse of a detainee by an intelligence agency contractor in Afghanistan or the horrible mistreatment of some prisoners at Abu Ghraib that sickened us all and which arose under the different legal framework that applies to armed conflict in Iraq. In such cases the United States has vigorously investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted and punished those responsible. Some individuals have already been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison; others have been demoted or reprimanded.

As CIA Director Goss recently stated, our intelligence agencies have handled the gathering of intelligence from a very small number of extremely dangerous detainees, including the individuals who planned the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the attack on the USS Cole, and many other murders and attempted murders. It is the policy of the United States that this questioning is to be conducted within U.S. law and treaty obligations, without using torture. It is also U.S. policy that authorized interrogation will be consistent with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The intelligence so gathered has stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives -- in Europe as well as in the United States and other countries. The United States has fully respected the sovereignty of other countries that cooperate in these matters.

Because this war on terrorism challenges traditional norms and precedents of previous conflicts, our citizens have been discussing and debating the proper legal standards that should apply. President Bush is working with the U.S. Congress to come up with good solutions. I want to emphasize a few key points.

? The United States is a country of laws. My colleagues and I have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We believe in the rule of law.

? The United States Government must protect its citizens. We and our friends around the world have the responsibility to work together in finding practical ways to defend ourselves against ruthless enemies. And these terrorists are some of the most ruthless enemies we face.

? We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations. We expect that other nations share this view.

Some governments choose to cooperate with the United States in intelligence, law enforcement, or military matters. That cooperation is a two-way street. We share intelligence that has helped protect European countries from attack, helping save European lives.

It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public. They have a sovereign right to make that choice.

Debate in and among democracies is natural and healthy. I hope that that debate also includes a healthy regard for the responsibilities of governments to protect their citizens.

Four years after September 11, most of our populations are asking us if we are doing all that we can to protect them. I know what it is like to face an inquiry into whether everything was done that could have been done. So now, before the next attack, we should all consider the hard choices that democratic governments must face. And we can all best meet this danger if we work together.

Thank you.

Source: Associated Press


Here's a line from an AP story today regarding Rice's language:

[i]Earlier on Wednesday in Ukraine, Ms. Rice gave the Bush administration's most definitive accounting yet of U.S. rules on treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism, but her assurances left loopholes for practices that could be akin to torture. Ms. Rice said cruel and degrading interrogation methods are off limits for all U.S. personnel at home and abroad. But she gave no examples of banned practices, didn't define the meaning of cruelty or degradation, and didn't say if the rules would apply to private contractors or foreign interrogators.

At every stop on her European tour this week, Ms. Rice has faced questions about U.S. practices in the pursuit of terrorists, including whether the CIA has run secret prisons on European soil or mistreated prisoners during clandestine flights in and out of Europe.

Using precise legal language, Ms. Rice referred to the 1994 U.N. treaty that defines and bans torture and also prohibits certain treatment that doesn't meet the legal definition of torture. But human-rights organizations and critics in Europe have called the Bush administration interpretation a loophole for treatment almost indistinguishable from torture.[/i]


Note very well the language used: "could be akin to torture" and "almost indistinguishable from torture." Guess what that means? It's [u]NOT[/u] torture.


BTW, here is an example of precisely what I was referencing above with the muddying of the definitio of torture by trying to squeeze in stuff that is not torture simply in order to criticize the U.S.:


"Louise Arbour, the high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations [asserted] that holding suspects incommunicado in itself amounts to torture."

No, it doesn't.


Well, I think the legal loophole defence is a mistake... but you may be right, if that's all this is.



I don't think anyhere here would agree that holding anyone incommunicado would represent torture.

Just because someone "out there" makes a claim doesn't make it mainstream.

I'm sure there are a lot of right wing talking heads that are quite extreme and should be ignored as well.


The high commissioner of human rights at the U.N. is just "someone out there"?


Since when does anyone care about what the UN thinks?

Are we listening to the UN again? Did I miss the memo?


John Kerry and the Liberal base gave great weight to what the UN thinks. It was key to their strategy and remains so to this day.

I don't pay attention to what they say bye the way.